18 February 2019
A portrait of Kim Jong-nam, the late half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is featured on the cover of a Chinese magazine in Beijing. Photo: Reuters
A portrait of Kim Jong-nam, the late half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is featured on the cover of a Chinese magazine in Beijing. Photo: Reuters

Malaysia to cancel visa-free entry for North Koreans

Malaysia will cancel visa-free entry for North Koreans entering the country from March 6, state news agency Bernama reports.

North Koreans will be required to obtain a visa before entering Malaysia for national security reasons, Bernama quoted Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying.

The move comes two weeks after Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was killed at the Kuala Lumpur airport with a toxic nerve agent, Reuters said.

South Korea and the United States say he was assassinated by agents of the North Korean regime.

China, meanwhile, urged calm and restraint after South Korea called for the possible suspension of North Korea’s seat at the United Nations to punish it for using chemical weapons to kill Kim Jong-nam.

Malaysian police have said two women smeared VX nerve agent, a chemical on a UN list of banned weapons of mass destruction, on Kim Jong-nam’s face in an assault captured on security cameras at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13.

The two women  – Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Vietnam, and Siti Aisyah, 25, from Indonesia – were charged on Wednesday with the murder. They could be hanged if they are convicted of the charge.

US and South Korean officials believe Kim Jong-nam was the victim of an assassination orchestrated by North Korea.

North Korea said it “categorically rejects” what it calls “fictitious and preposterous assumptions”.

Speaking at the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament in Geneva on Tuesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said the use of chemical weapons was a “wake-up call” and the international community should act – including possibly suspending the isolated North’s seat at the UN.

“What I need to say is that the situation at present on the Korean peninsula is complex and sensitive,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, when asked whether North Korea should be suspended from the UN.

“In this situation, we hope all sides can maintain calm and exercise restraint and not do anything to irritate each other or that may raise regional tensions,” Geng told a daily news briefing, without elaborating.

While China is North Korea’s most important remaining international supporter, it has been angered by its repeated missile and nuclear tests and has supported tough UN sanctions.

However, China has pushed for talks to resolve the stand-off, and this week is playing host to a senior North Korean diplomat, Vice Foreign Minister Ri Kil-song, the first such high-level visit since June.

In a brief statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Ri that China’s consistent position is that it wants to consolidate the tradition of friendship between the two countries.

Wang said all parties should “iron out challenges” and work hard for the denuclearization of the peninsula, the ministry added.

There was no mention in the statement of the death of Kim Jong-nam.

Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons states parties can “in cases of particular gravity” bring an issue to the attention of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly.

The Security Council can recommend to the 193-member General Assembly – likely through the adoption of a resolution – that a state be suspended or expelled. Such a move would need to be approved by two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.

Kim Jong-nam had been living in exile, under Beijing’s protection, in the Chinese territory of Macau, and had criticized Kim Jong Un’s regime.

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